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Once upon a time in the West Gaddafi had friends

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Once upon a time in the West Gaddafi had friends


Gaddafi’s relationship with the West was going through something of a renaissance before the uprising began in February. He came bearing gifts — namely oil and gas — gifts the West found hard to turn down.

A matter of months before the revolution Gaddafi was feted in Rome by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Gaddafi gave as good as he got, pulling out all the stops every time Berlusconi pitched up at Gaddafi’s party tent. Libya’s parliament applauded both men as kisses and handshakes were exchanged. It looked like everything in the garden was rosy.

In Paris on 11 December 2007, a Libyan flag and a Bedouin tent decorate the gardens of the residence used for state visits in the French capital. It was confirmation that bilateral relations between France and Libya were doing just fine. A lavish reception at the Elysee Palace was the icing on the gateau.

That was as good as it got for the colonel.

One by one his former well-placed friends turned their backs on him as they cosied up to the National Transition Council, the new leaders of the oil-rich state.

President Sarkozy went from backslapping to bombing: “Military operations will continue until Gaddafi and his regime no longer pose a threat to the Libyan people,” he said shortly after the NATO campaign began.

As the world waited for Gaddafi to fall the Friendship Treaty between Libya and Italy was in tatters and Berlusconi worked to secure Italy’s future in the new Libya

“We will sign an agreement in Benghazi between ENI and the new government, that will release a substantial amount of oil and gas free of charge to Libya and the population,” Berlusconi said.

It represents a seismic change in attitude and policy, but as the expression goes he who pays the piper calls the tune.

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